Sunday, September 24, 2006

THE INTERVIEW




Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I GREW UP IN THE CITY OF MANILA, PHILIPPINES. I ALWAYS LOVE TO DRAW BUT THE FUNNY THING IS I NEVER PLANNED TO DO IT PROFESSIONALLY. I GOT INTO PLAYING MUSIC SINCE HIGH SCHOOL AND EVEN CARRIED IT ALONG WITH ME WHILE IN COLLEGE. I WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS IN MANILA AND MAJORED IN CIVIL ENGINEERING (YEAH I KNOW, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ART). AFTER GRADUATION AND A SHORT STINT IN CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN, I JOINED FIL-CARTOONS, A LEADING HANA-BARBERA STUDIO AT THAT TIME. I WAS TRAINED TO BE AN ANIMATOR AT THE STUDIO. AFTER A YEAR OF ANIMATING AND REALIZING THAT MY PASSION IS SET DESIGN, I MOVED TO LAYOUT. I STAYED WITH HANA-BARBERA FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS THEN JOINED PHILIPPINE ANIMATION STUDIO AND SUPERVISED LAYOUT FOR OVERSEAS PRODUCTIONS OF MARVEL TV. THEN IN 1996, MOVED TO THE US FOR GOOD. FINISHING A LAYOUT VISUALIZATION AND BACKGROUND DESIGN COURSE AT ASSOCIATES IN ART IN SHERMAN OAKS WAS A STEPPING STONE IN ACQUIRING THE STANDARDS OF WHAT TRADITIONAL FEATURE FILM STUDIOS WERE LOOKING FOR AT THAT TIME. DISNEY TOOK NOTICE AND HIRED ME FOR THEIR FLORIDA STUDIO TO WORK ON MULAN. THE REST I GUESS IS HISTORY.


How do you go about designing environments, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?


I AM THE ONE RESPONSIBLE IN DESIGNING THE LOCATION AND CREATES THE STAGE FOR THE CHARACTERS.

IN CREATING THE STAGE, I HAVE TO KNOW FIRST THE STORY. THEN FOR EACH SEQUENCE THAT REQUIRES DIFFERENT LOCATIONS OR SETS, I HAVE TO GATHER AS MUCH INFORMATION LIKE MOOD, TIME OF DAY, CAMERA MOVEMENT, HOW BIG THE LOCATION SHOULD BE, ETC. THEN FROM THESE, I COULD FOCUS MY DESIGN ON WHAT THE SEQUENCE AND CHARACTER NEEDS. FOR EXAMPLE IN LILO AND STITCH, THERE WAS A SCENE WHERE LILO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SAD AND LEFT OUT BY OTHER KIDS WHILE SITTING ON THE PORCH. I PUT LILO UNDER THE SHADOW AND DESIGNED THE FOLIAGE AROUND HER WITH ALL THE LEAVES DROOPING DOWN IN ORDER TO EMPHASIZE THE CHARACTER’S EMOTION. A BIT OF RESEARCH WAS INVOLVED IN IT TOO TO DETERMINE THE KIND OF PLANT THAT WOULD WORK WELL WITH THAT DESIGN CONSIDERING ALSO THE COLOR PATTERN THAT GOES WITH IT. CREATIVELY DESIGNING THE MOOD OF THE SET BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN THE CHARACTER AND HELPS STORYTELLING A LOT.

ALWAYS REMEMBER, WHAT GOOD IS A CHARACTER IF THE SET DOESN’T WORK WITH IT.

What is a typical day for you at Sony Pictures Animation, and who are the people you work with?

A TYPICAL DAY AT SONY CAN RANGE FROM RELAXED TO HECTIC DEPENDING ON WHAT STAGE OF PRODUCTION I'M IN. BUT FUN NEVER LEAVES THE STUDIO BECAUSE OF THE TALENTS I'M CLOSELY WORKING WITH LIKE MARCELO VIGNALI, WHOM I WORKED WITH ON THREE DISNEY FEATURES BEFORE, AND MARCOS MATEU, A VERY TALENTED ILLUSTRATOR AND PAINTER. OTHER TALENTS I'M REGULARLY IN CONTACT WITH ARE PAUL LASAINE, RON LUKAS, SYLVAIN DEBOISSY, AND RICHIE CHAVEZ TO NAME A FEW. IT'S DEFINITELY A PRIVILEGE TO WORK CLOSELY WITH THESE GUYS.


What are some of the things that you have worked on?


I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON ANIMATED FEATURE FILMS IN THE PAST TEN YEARS PARTICULARLY IN LAYOUT AND VISUAL DEVELOPMENT. BUT PRIOR TO FEATURE, I WORKED ON SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. NEVER DONE ANY COMICS PROFESSIONALLY BUT I'M CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN A COLLABORATION WITH MARCELO AND MARCOS TITLED "EL-PACIFICO" (www.el-pacifico.blogspot.com), WHICH IS AN ONLINE IMPROMPTU COMIC BOOK. I DID PERSONAL OIL PAINTINGS WHILE I WAS STILL AT DISNEY IN ORLANDO AND BEEN PART OF EXHIBITS AT THE ORLANDO AND MAITLAND MUSEUMS OF ART IN FLORIDA.


Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?

IF YOU ASKED ME ABOUT SET DESIGN, I HAVE A LOT. BUT FOR CHARACTER, WELL, I’M GETTING INVOLVED RIGHT NOW WITH AN INDEPENDENT FILM PROJECT AND WE ARE MAKING A PERIOD MOVIE. DESIGNING THE MAIN CHARACTERS AND THEIR COSTUMES IS DEFINITELY A FRESH CHALLENGE FOR ME THAT SURELY I’LL BE PROUD OF.


What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

LET ME GO BACK IN TIME HERE ... THE TV PROJECTS THAT ARE MOST MEMORABLE FOR ME ARE AS FOLLOWS: PIRATES OF DARK WATER, TOM AND JERRY KIDS, ADDAMS FAMILY, FANTASTIC FOUR AND X-MEN. FOR ANIMATED FEATURES, DISNEY'S MULAN, TARZAN, LILO & STITCH, BROTHER BEAR, AND SONY'S SURF'S UP (SLATED FOR 2007). SORRY, I CAN’T MENTION YET MY NEXT MOVIE WITH SONY. BUT ON THE SIDE, MY WIFE AND I ARE VENTURING INTO A SMALL LIVE ACTION STUDIO. WE ARE CURRENTLY IN COLLABORATION WITH ANOTHER STUDIO IN LONG BEACH AND ALREADY IN DEVELOPMENT STAGE ON TWO INDEPENDENT LIVE ACTION FILM PROJECTS. I AM PLANNING FOR MY DESIGNS ON THESE PROJECTS TO BE COMPILED IN BOOK FORM AND HOPEFULLY WILL BE AVAILABLE EARLY NEXT YEAR.

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

ACTUALLY, THERE'S A LOT … YOU JUST HAVE TO SEARCH FOR THEM.


Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

FOR YEARS AS A TRADITIONAL LAYOUT ARTIST, VALUES AND COMPOSITION HAS BEEN MY GAME. NEVER USED COLOR EXCEPT FOR MY OWN PERSONAL ARTWORKS. BUT AS VISUAL DEVELOPMENT, IT'S 100% DIGITAL FOR A FEW YEARS NOW WHETHER GRAYSCALE OR COLORED AND THE TOOL OF THE TRADE FOR ME IS PHOTOSHOP.

TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ON THE PROCESS, I STILL DESIGN IN BLACK AND WHITE. THIS COULD EITHER BE GRAPHITE ON PAPER THEN SCANNED OR DONE DIRECTLY IN PHOTOSHOP. THEN, DIGITALLY, I BLOCK IT OUT WITH COUPLE OF GRAY VALUES IN ALMOST LIKE A COMIC BOOK MANNER AND PAINT IT.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

HONESTLY, IT’S DIFFICULT FOR ME TO IDENTIFY, WHICH PART IS EASY OR HARD BECAUSE IT DEPENDS ON THE COMPLEXITY OF THE DESIGN I WANT TO ACHIEVE. BUT
I ALWAYS LOVE THE CHALLENGE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND STRETCH THE RANGE OF MY ABILITIES.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

WELL FOR ONE, I WOULD SAY I'M FORTUNATE TO BE SURROUNDED EVERYDAY WITH TOP ARTISTS IN THE BUSINESS. WHAT I SEE ON THEIR WALLS AND CONTINUOUS INTERACTION KEEP ME CREATIVE AND FRESH. I ALSO JOINED A SKETCHCLUB EVERY FRIDAY. LASTLY, I TRY TO BE VERY SELECTIVE IN ARTWORKS THAT I LOOK AT AND APPRECIATE. THAT GOES AS WELL WITH MOVIES THAT I WATCH. IT PAYS TO BE CAREFUL WHAT WE FEED OUR CREATIVE MIND.

What are some of your favorite character designs, which you have seen?

I ALWAYS LOVE ASTERIX.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

PERIOD PIECES. I AM HISTORY BUFF.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I BELIEVE I’M BORN WITH IT FOR I BEEN DRAWING ALL MY LIFE. MY EARLIEST INFLUENCES ARE MAINLY CLASSIC COMIC BOOKS WHEN I WAS A KID AND DEFINITELY OLD EPIC MOVIES THAT I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF.


What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

THE VARIETY IN STYLE, DESIGN APPROACH AND RENDERING. NOT TO MENTION THE JOKES THAT KEEP US RELAXED WHEN UNDER PRESSURE.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

THERE'S A BUNCH. YOU CAN CHECK MY WEBSITE OR BLOG FOR THE LIST.


What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

PROBABLY FOUR THINGS: 1. ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF WHAT STORY YOU WANT TO TELL IN YOUR ARTWORK, 2. KEEP IN MIND YOU'RE NOT THERE YET, SO KEEP IMPROVING YOUR CRAFT, 3. ALWAYS BRING THE FUN THAT YOU HAD AS A CHILD WHILE DOING YOUR ART, AND, 4. BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S ARTWORK.


If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

I COULD BE REACHED BY EMAIL THROUGH MY WEB OR BLOGSITE http://armandserrano.blogspot.com/.


Finally, do you have any of your artwork for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

HOPEFULLY I WILL HAVE SOMETHING BY NEXT YEAR.